“International Vehicle Design” was the theme for this years running of the Eyes on Design Automotive Exhibition in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. This fundraising event for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology (DIO) is a unique annual affair displaying over 160 categorized cars on the grounds of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford house, on the western shore of Lake St.Clair. As usual, there were also vintage motorcycles and special/concept cars in attendance. The recent weather forecasts prepared us for the blistering heat and humidity; however the swarms of mayflies were a serious annoyance for entries and photographers alike. Our photographic team survived the heat and was on the field throughout the day to capture the event in words and a 125-shot slideshow
To emphasize the impact that designers from around the world have on each other, and in turn, on today’s vehicles, the cars were arranged into classes based on their design origin. The American
, and Italian
classes were each separated into pre and post war divisions. The remaining categories were Asian
, Tuner Sports Compacts
, American Pony Cars of the 70’s
, Sports Cars
, and Stock to Rock
, where a classic car was placed beside a modern customized version. All categories were well represented with prime examples of their respective design styles. Just to mix up the common sights from each region, an ‘ugly duckling’ Tatra, originating from Czechoslovakia sat all alone in the middle of the field.
Many of the mass-producing manufacturers were accounted for, including Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Chrysler, and Cadillac. Duesenberg, Cord, Packard and Marmon pre-war examples showed their typical exquisite coachwork. John McMullen’s Model J (#444) Duesy has a particularly interesting history, as Howard Hughes’ towing vehicle for his famous glider designs. The post-war section was highlighted by a very rare Lincoln Continental Mk II Convertible that is one of three ever built.
Jaguar, Rolls-Royce, Austin Healey, TVR, and Morgan highlighted the British lineup. An unlikely site on American soil; an unrestored Jomar Mk 2 Sportsracer had spectators baffled. Only after close inspection of the engine bay and the chassis plate did you realize this was one of the first TVR ventures in their unstable beginnings.
Mercedes and BMW dominated the German segment with a couple Porsche and Volkswagen tossed in for good measure. A low slung black Mercedes Mannheim Sports Cabriolet suitably took best in class.
There have been few French manufacturers and even fewer models make their way across the Atlantic. This class was understandably the smallest with only four cars present, three of which were Citroen.
Among the typical Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati exhibited in this group a tiny red Fiat two-seater caught our interest most of all. This Topolino 500B Coupe Convertible, whose name seems too large for its physical size appeared to be the ‘Smart’ car of a previous era.
Our favourite category of the day was due in part by two Toyota 2000 GT’s. One coupe and one convertible, entered by the same owner who also has another fourteen 2000 GT’s at home, could have easily been mistaken for Italian or German designed specimens.
The Visionaries Award is exclusive to Eyes on Design and is judged by visually impaired members by use of touch alone. Their tactile senses compile a mental vision of these steel sculptures in a way we certainly can only imagine. This year’s recipient was the powerful Mercury Cougar Eliminator. Best in Show was deservedly awarded to the second oldest car on the field; a magnificent 1921 Daniels Submarine Speedster owned by David Lichtfield. This perfectly restored oldie is quite rare since Daniels was only in business for two years. Its poor instrument gauge layout under the dashboard makes it difficult to drive without assistance, although well equipped with safety equipment such as periscope-like turn signal indicators, a compressed air tank for tire inflation, and an electric trouble light long enough to service all four corners of the car.
The nearly unbearable heat may have diminished the final attendance count this year, but nevertheless we’re certain that the 2005 Eyes on Design was another financial success for the DIO. Without a doubt it retained its reputation as being a first-class show that always has a few surprise automobiles up its sleeve.